Are you planning a trip to London’s bustling theatre scene? Even if you’ve booked a hotel for the night and were thinking of eating late you’ll find London is particularly well set up to cater for theatre goers who want to eat pre-performance. Refreshingly, it can cost you less if you stick to a pre-theatre menu too.
From the restaurant’s point of view a pre-theatre booking means the table will be freed up for prime time evening dining, so accommodating theatre goers is very much in their interest. Perhaps that’s why some of the most interesting restaurants in town go out of their way to provide good, reasonably priced set menus for early evening culture seekers. Even if you don’t want to eat from the set menu, you should find that restaurants can help – let them know what show you are seeing and the start time when you book your table, so that they can make sure your food arrives in good time.
In the West End there are lots of options including a wealth of no-reservation restaurants. If you’re planning to eat in one of these, be warned, even early in the evening there can be a wait of 30 or 40 minutes for a table, so book ahead. Of the restaurants offering a booking service why not try Hix Soho. It can be expensive dining from the main menu there, but the pre-theatre menu there is a snip at £19.50 for two courses, or £24.50 for three and you’ll get some fabulous dishes to choose from. What’s more, if you have two courses and come back AFTER the show, they’ll give you dessert for free.
Another option in Soho is Mele e Pere – a trendy Italian trattoria which also has a great pre-theatre dining menu at just £15.50 for two courses. The food there is casual Italian; dine on roast pumpkin soup with wild mushrooms and pecorino calcagno or porchetta with mushrooms, polenta chips and endive – and don’t forget to try their house speciality of home-made vermouth at £4.00 a glass.
My third recommendation is a little closer to St Martin’s Lane and Covent Garden. If your show happens to be over that way, why not try the very French style pre-theatre options at Les Deux Salons. There’s a choice of the two course Prix Fixe (£12.95) or three course Menu Formule at £22.95, both available for pre and post-theatre diners. And, there’s one of the best selections of wines by the glass too. Book a room at Travelodge’s Covent Garden hotel for an easy walk home.
Heading to the Barbican? There are, of course, plenty of places to eat within the Barbican itself, but for something a little different, try Chiswell Street Dining Rooms just round the corner, an excellent contemporary English restaurant focussing on local and seasonal dishes. You’ll find dishes like Lincolnshire white onion soup and Confit Tamworth pork belly on offer, £22.50 for two courses or £27.50 if you want to indulge in dessert too.
On the South Bank, not only will you find a collection of some of the most treasured theatres, concert halls and cinemas, but also a wealth of great restaurants. Most are well known names – Strada, Las Iguanas and Giraffe for example, but while there are a few independents (the Archduke is one, with a good value pre-theatre menu at £16 for two courses or £20 for three, including coffee), the best of the local gastro-pubs, the Anchor and Hope, has a no booking policy. So, for my money, one of the nicest places to dine is in the Oxo tower, looking out over the River. There you have options – a pre theatre menu in the classy Restaurant will set you back £35 for two courses whilst the informal Brasserie is a little less expensive at £29.50 for three courses . You are paying for a view out over the river from the eighth floor as well as some excellent modern European food.
So, wherever your show, there are some great places to eat beforehand; why not make sure you won’t be hungry by the interval and dine in style before the curtain goes up.